Customers Rock!

A blog about customers, their experiences, and how businesses can make sure their customer experiences rock!

Consumer Stories and Relationship

Posted by Becky Carroll on December 3, 2007

stories.jpg 

I received an email from Kim Palmer, author of the blog AlphaConsumer at US News and World Report.  She recently published a post about telling stories on consumer websites.   She shares her initial response to an “invitation” from a grocery store, Giant, who is seeking consumer stories about their experiences with the supermarket.  Kim says,

“Really? Me? Does Giant really care? I was flattered but not so much so that I shared why I shop there. (If you must know, it is because I enjoy the brightly lit aisles and ethnic food section.) I can barely keep up with the friends I do have; I’m not sure I can handle another, especially one that’s a corporate entity.”

I wanted to share my comments back to her here, as I have often wondered about this as well!  Creating strong customer relationships is a goal of many companies today, but I don’t believe consumers want a relationship with an “entity”.   They will, however, build connections with key employees at those companies (such as the cashier at the local market).

I believe companies want customers to “tell their stories” for a few reasons.  First, more and more organizations are looking to create two-way conversations with their customers.  This is taking place at blogs all over the world.   The Southwest Airlines blog is a good example of customers sharing stories (especially where CEO Gary Kelly talks about the recent changes to their boarding procedure and 212 customers weighed-in via the comments); note that not all stories are necessarily glowing, but they are still valid stories.

Second, companies realize that word-of-mouth marketing is still very successful, as consumers are more likely to trust each other than that “entity”.  Gathering and sharing consumer stories seems to be one way of trying to make it happen.

Not everyone will want to share their story, nor should they!  Kim is not comfortable doing so, and that is fine.  Companies should understand the ways in which their customers want to interact and gather feedback (and referrals) accordingly.  Kim shared some great info on why she shops there; I hope Giant was reading her post!

I think very loyal customers, the kind who want to create connections with organizations in which they believe, will feel more compelled to share their stories.  Disney has a section of their “Insider” newsletter that showcases consumer stories, and it is fun to read.

However, are consumers really moved to wax poetic on their local grocery store?  I am not convinced that is the case, but time will tell.

Do you have a company where you would be willing to “share your story”?  I would do so with Disney, Coldwater Creek, and Southwest.  What about you?

(Photo: Paha L

2 Responses to “Consumer Stories and Relationship”

  1. Becky,
    Thanks for your great observations. The line between sellers and consumers continues to soften. More and more, consumers are becoming sales people — and often more effective ones at that! Saw a survey last summer that showed 80 percent of U.S. shoppers place more trust in brands that offer customer ratings and reviews. It also found that customers prefer peer reviews over expert reviews by a 6-to-1 margin! It all comes down to trust and believability. We’re more inclined to accept a recommendation from a fellow consumer vs. a slick salesperson. Honest, unvarnished information that’s provided by customer reviews, testimonials, endorsements and case studies will drive marketing in the future. We all win in that scenario.

  2. Jeffrey, thanks for adding to the “story”. Yes, more and more consumers are becoming not only the salepeople but also the marketers (see Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba’s book Citizen Marketers for more on that).

    Now the challenge is to get more customers to actually submit the reviews…

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